February 21, 2016

FENCE Spring Hunter Pace: EDITED with Score

Lesson learned: always trust myself. When I begin not to I need to use my confidence stick on myself.

The morning dawned grey and dreary with the threat of rain mid morning. I checked the website a dozen times before heading to the barn to make sure it was still a go and, when finally satisfied, we loaded up the truck with a million snacks, toys, and clothes for Wyatt and headed out.

Gem was in rare form when I grabbed her from the pasture. She was pawing, had the whites of her eyes showing at times and even attempted a rear in the cross ties. I'm not sure what was bothering her, but after a failed attempt at grooming while she fidgeted and fussed I decided to just load her up and deal with her at the ride.

We arrived and she was much calmer when she unloaded. Who knows what got up her butt back at the barn. I registered and tacked her up as more and more trailers began to filter in. It is still odd for me to think spring in February, especially when my friends in WI are still posting ice fishing pictures, but Gem is shedding like mad and there is a different taste to the air. I yelled goodbye to Dusty and Wyatt and headed off to the start area.

Wyatt and Dusty digging in the warm up ring. When we got there Wyatt looked around and loudly proclaimed "This is my kind of place!"
The start box was empty as we wandered over. I was instructed to follow the pink and blue ribbons and that the trail was 9 miles. I've ridden here twice before and it was 9 miles each time in the past, so I, erroneously, figured it would be the same trail.

3, 2, 1.... We will keep the lights on!

Gem and I were off. We walked away from the start and hit the steeplechase track for a short distance where I asked her to trot and she obliged. Since I was riding solo I had kept her bit in and remembered to grab the dressage whip aka confidence stick a term I have stolen from Liz! Gem picked up a lovely 8 mph trot which had me grinning from the start.

I really dislike the beginning of this ride. You ride out the driveway, cross a busy two lane road and go under two highway overpasses where the cars and trucks just fly overhead. As we were making our way alongside the busy road I recalled that I had never ridden this alone. Dusty and Pete joined me the one year and Haley was with me this fall. Gem was hyper aware, but moved forward willingly and I believe we were both equally happy when we turned off the shoulder and went down the driveway to the cross country course.

I need to get pictures of this because it is a full blown cross country course with a lovely water complex, but Gem is such a freak that I never have a free hand. Today was no exception. She HATES cross country jumps and spooks and bolts and stops all through the field. She nearly dumped me three times in a very short period and I was very focused on her.

The cross country field has also been notorious for getting people lost. In the past we have come across riders doing the entire ride backwards because of the cc course portion. I followed the ribbons and arrows being aware of this tendency and only relaxed once we hit the woods on the far side.
Gem was flying through this section and was feeling great. She was putting down 8 mph miles with ease and forward, happy ears and I was just humming to myself and enjoying the day.

Heading into the woods after the cc course

One of two creek crossings. Gem stopped to play in the water, but didn't drink. I think if there had been a water crossing later in the ride, she would have greedily sucked it down. 

At 2.25 miles and 22 minutes I arrived back at the cc course and saw that the trail went back down the busy road towards the barn. In the past, the trail did this and then you were finished a mile later.

Crap! I must have missed trail. We always spend the majority of the ride on this side of the property. I milled around the driveway entrance looking very confused and was debating what to do when a trio of female riders came up. I asked if they knew this ride, told them that I was worried I missed trail and asked what they knew. Their response? "Ride your own ride"

Excuse me? Wow. I hope you fall off.

Coming out of the woods and back at the cc course. Hmmm....
I decided that doubling up was better than missing a bunch of trail and turned around to see where in the cc course I made my error. I called Dusty and asked if he could find out what I did wrong, but nobody back there knew anything at all.

Letting Gem graze while I decided what to do

Going back around a second time
Surprisingly, Gem was happy to redo the loop and went striding out back into the cc course and while she was still an idiot about it, she was better behaved this time which let me really focus on the markings. These ended up taking me the exact same way and 2.25 more miles later, I saw the cc course again.

The darn cc course again
At this point it seemed silly to do the same thing a third time and I figured I'd just go in and tell them I was terribly lost and confused. Well, it turns out I should have just trusted myself and kept following the darn ribbons because the trail went right past the barn and out on trails I had never seen before. Stupid lack of confidence strikes again.

Gem was still in a good mood, but was much more aware of her surroundings on these new trails. The weather continued to be cloudy and the humidity soared to a sweat inducing 86%, but thankfully there was a cold head wind to keep us both cool.

We passed a herd of curious cows and Gem slowed, but kept moving forward like a brave girl
The trails on this side were wonderful. Loads of hills, mostly double wide tracks and all in the woods. Gem was a bit pokey and required more nagging to keep up the pace, but all in all she maintained a nice forward momentum.
Beautiful trails with beautiful footing just screaming to move out
The hills kept coming and they kept getting steeper. Gem started to ask to walk and I let her. After downloading the data, there was 1,000 feet of gain and the entire second half of the ride was a general uphill trend. No wonder she got tired!
Elevation profile from the Garmin. Some steep ascents, but a general uphill trend on the second half.

Lots of uphill climbs through the woods

Going up again...or should I say still?
We finally reached the halfway point and waited out the 3 minute hold. The trail from here followed a pretty lake. At one point I asked Gem to canter and jumped into a lovely 14 mph, balanced canter that made me laugh out loud. It was so wonderful to eat up the trail like that with a horse I love under me.

Lake coming into view

We even saw some geese alongside the lake. Gem could have cared less about them

Too amazing to not fly. This is right before we picked up the canter.

A few more climbs later and the barn was in sight below us once again. My watch read 9.5 miles (about 11 miles in real life) and 1:54 as we crossed the finish line. I apologized to Gem for adding the second loop on, but was glad for the extra miles.

Looking down at the barns and show grounds with the steeplechase in the foreground

The road system Wyatt and Dusty built before they needed the warm up ring to park extra trailers
She looked great at the end, but was definitely tired. She scarfed down her mash and then took a nap while we ate our lunch. I am still planning on changing up her feed to add oats, but she is feeling and looking good on the TC Senior and I love how shiny her coat is getting. I can't wait until she sheds out for the year. She is going to be gorgeous.

Messy mare face

Looking good. Still want to tack on a few pounds, but keeping her in work will help a lot to build muscle and not just fat

Two happy, and very matchy, competitors

As I turned her back out in her pasture, I noticed that she has some gray under her eyes and on her muzzle that wasn't there last year. I looked at Dusty and remarked how she is finally becoming a horse I can do most anything on and that I adore and now she is going to get old on me. Still, she looks amazing for nearly 18 and I made sure to give her an extra big hug and a thanks for everything she does for me.

I'm not too excited to see the ride results. I know we won't be in the running having added those miles on although part of me wonders that if we hadn't we may have come in way too fast.

EDIT: So we totally would have kicked major butt had I not second guessed myself and redid the first loop. Darn!!! We ended up coming in too slow by 33 minutes which was roughly the amount of time I wasted trying to figure out what to do and then redoing the loop and once again figuring out what to do and taking it easy back to base to waste a bit of time. Shoot. Oh well...live and learn. Course time was 1:23 and we came in at 1:56.


  1. How cool that they took you a different way! I probably would of done the same thing and been very confused since it usually follows a similar track. And those were rude people you ran into! Good thing most people aren't that rude but I guess there are bad eggs everywhere? Glad you as a great ride!

    1. I was thinking of you and wondering if you were able to make the ride. The trails on the backside of the facility were really nice and it was all my fault for not just going with it. Those were the first rude people I have come across during these rides and I just shook my head and carried on.

    2. I had out of town guests so couldn't go to FENCE :( but there will be other hunter paces and only a few weekends a year that friends can get together so hopefully will make it to the one after next :)

  2. Wow, that was really rude...at least you had a good ride though! Glad to hear Gem has been coming along so well- it was awesome to read your rescue story in February's EN :D

    1. Thanks!!! She has come such a long way from where we started.